March 25, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #255

John Carradine and the Secret of Arthritis. Animation producer Gary Goldman told interviewer Adam McDaniel about using Shakespearan actor John Carradine as the voice of the owl in The Secret of Nimh (1982):

The Great Owl with his voice actor John Carradine. Click to Enlarge

The Great Owl with his voice actor John Carradine. Click to Enlarge

“Carradine arrived at Paramount Studios about an hour late. We rented their recording facility to record Mr. Carradine’s voice. When he arrived, he appeared to be intoxicated. We called his agent. His agent told us the Mr. Carradine suffered from acute crippling arthritis and that he was on pain killers. Since the recording session was in the afternoon he may have stopped for lunch beforehand. And, if he had a Martini, the combination of the drug and the drink would cause him to appear pretty much ‘sloshed’.

“His agent was right. So, we spent an hour and a half providing him with black coffee and asking him questions about his old Hollywood experiences. All of a sudden, he became dead serious and very sober. ‘Well, we better get on with this. You’re not paying me for an interview’. He delivered every line in one take. If we wanted alternates he would inform us that we have gotten the best that he had. No retakes, no alternates. Wow! Good thing he gave a great performance.

“One thing of particular interest, John’s hands really showed the pain of his affliction. His knuckles were over-sized and looked gnarled in the pose he assumed as he read his lines. When he shook your hand, he could not really clasp your hand properly. He joked,’”If you think my hands are bad, you should see my feet’. We all looked down at his neatly polished dress-shoes, imagining the condition of his feet and his discomfort in the confinement of the shoes.

“John Pomeroy used this fact about Mr. Carradine in the final design of the Great Owl’s feet and the way that the owl walked (with a limp). We also used a cracking sound effect as the owl rotated his head, before he spoke to Mrs. Brisby.”

At the time of recording his lines, the character was called Mrs. Frisby as she was in the book but with objections from Wham-O that manufactured the toy “Frisbees”, the name had to be changed to Brisby. Carradine was unavailable for retakes so editors had to search for Carradine using a word with a “B” sound and splice it in to the word Frisby.

Bambi-1942-posterThe Bambi That Almost Was. The first complete treatment for Disney’s animated feature Bambi (1942) was written at the end of 1939 and had some significant differences to the final film. For instance, as children Bambi and Faline play in a sunny meadow but their play is interrupted when they are shot at (but missed) by hunters. Bambi and his mother are stalked by a hunter and as they flee a shot rings out and it would have shown her jerk in mid-leap and fall dead.

As Bambi wanders the forest crying for his lost mother, he hears what he thinks is her voice and runs toward it with great joy only to discover it is a hunter with a deer call who shoots him. Bleeding and gasping in pain, Bambi staggers back to the thicket where he was born. He begins calling for his mother again and falls down, apparently dead. His anxious father arrives to watch over him until the unconscious fawn begins to breathe once more.

After Bambi has grown up and after a forest fire carelessly started by the hunters has devastated the forest, Bambi’s father leads Bambi to a man’s charred cadaver, revealing that man is not the ruler of the animal kingdom but just another mortal victim. Walt fought hard for that sequence, that it was the presence of man that upset the balance of nature, but finally relented and removed it before it was animated.

jack-skellinton-headSelick’s Nightmare. Because Tim Burton said “it would have put me in a nut house by now” to do the painstaking stop-motion animation by himself, he had the work done on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) by Henry Selick and 120 artists working in an old warehouse in San Francisco’s South of Market district where nineteen stages were wedged one after another. The budget was approximately twenty-two million dollars. They turned out only sixty seconds of finished film a week. Disney felt it was getting a bargain because the workforce and budget were significantly less than for a traditional Disney animated feature film.

“What Tim gave us was a very strong, beautiful story. The lead characters came right from his pen. But then he let us bring it to life,” Selick told Adweek magazine in October 1993. Selick felt that the story was actually about a mid-life crisis where even someone who is successful at what they do wonders what a different life might be like. “In the end, sometimes only by getting away from home can you really appreciate what you have there,” said Selick.

That Mother. In 1993 on Mother’s Day, the Cartoon Network had viewers vote for their favorite cartoon mom. The winner, beating out favorites like Wilma Flinstone and Jane Jetson, was….Roger “Race” Bannon, Jonny Quest’s bodyguard.

Poltergeist Tribute. At the 1982 San Diego Comic Con, Chuck Jones told the audience that the little bird in the feature film Poltergeist (1982) was named Tweety and the family’s name was “Freeling”. When Friz Freleng heard about this, he drew Sylvester the cat weeping over a tiny coffin containing Tweety and sent it to Producer Steven Spielberg.

Why Groening Likes Beavis and Butt-head. In a 1993 article in the L.A. Times newspaper, cartoonist Matt Groening who created The Simpsons responded to whether he liked Beavis and Butt-head. Groening stated, “I like Beavis and Butt-head. Anything that takes the heat off of Bart Simpson being responsible for the downfall of western civilization is fine by me.”

image_c458dd82Talking Iago. In 1993 comedian Gilbert Gottfried talked to reporter Mike Cidoni about transitioning his character of the parrot Iago in the Disney animated feature Aladdin (1992) to the television series (1994).

“The film is out on videotape this week (October 1, 1993). They cut out the offensive to Arabs line (in the song Arabian Nights) so if Yasser Arafat wants to see the movie he can. It was political correctness. I’m a Jew so offending Arabs was never my main concern.

“For the TV series, Disney said, ‘Look, your parrot will have to be friends with Aladdin’. I said, ‘It doesn’t make sense’. They said, ‘You wanna be in the series?’ I said, ‘It makes perfect sense’.”


  • About that Mother’s Day contest, Cartoon Network billed Race in the ads as “the toughest mother of them all.” I heard they were pretty shocked when he won. As the winner, we viewers got treated to a Jonny Quest marathon.

  • Regarding Bambi, there is a very interesting article available on the internet titled “The Trouble With Bambi: Walt Disney’s Bambi and the American Vision of Nature” by Ralph H Lutts. It was originally published in “Forest and Conservation history 36 (October 1992).” The article is a bit long, but well researched and the kind of thoughtful analysis rarely given to an animated film. Here’s the link:

  • Deer hunting isn’t regulated because deer are nearing extinction, but because deer are overpopulated, starving, and diseased since their former predators have been pushed back and wiped out to make room for ever encroaching ranchland, farmland, and population centers.  To preserve wildlife really means to let them eat each other in privacy – it doesn’t mean to create an artificial animal utopia. Disney was absolutely right not to want unions in his studio, because only the individual has rights and there is no such thing as collective rights. Collective rights are an excuse for iron fisted authoritarianism disguised as mob rule, and the nonexistent rights of a collective do not outway the actual legitimate rights of the individual. The phenomenon of labor unions is similar to man’s attempt to compensate for his natural dominance of the food chain (which includes domestication of livestock and advanced methods of farming) by controlling the deer population with regulated hunting.  When the natural laws of Darwinism created stratification among the classes of workers at Disney, the mob mentality reacted with irrational demands culminating in today’s Disney mediocrity, just as unions inevitably lead to mediocrity in every industry they touch. Disney acquiesced to union demands because like its members (and puppetmasters) he was a product of the same labor union controlled educational system and the wishy washy altruism and irrationality that it perpetuates. Still, it’s a testament to his abilities that while he lived he was still running the show, and there is a very real reason why a movie like Frozen is such a poopcicle regardless of the presence of a dead man’s signature on the credits.

    • This won’t be approved for posting, I’m sure, so I guess it amounts to me just venting, but it seems like every one of your posts lately is a shrill political screed with just animation-related content to be able to justify posting it here. I come here to read about animation, classic and new. Not to be lectured about the evils of unions and authoritarianism. There are far more than enough forums on the internet that cater to political diatribes without turning this into one of them.

    • Animation has the potential to be the highest artistic achievement one can attain because it can incorporate every art form.  An intelligent analysis of animation therefore has the potential for much broader discourse than subject matter on other websites.  I wouldn’t disrespect Cartoon Research by submitting empty unrelated babble, nor would I waste the editor’s time in submitting responses to babble, that is unless I thought it would enrich the initial discussion.  If you see a comment that offends your ethical or political sensibilities, simply ignore it as one might similarly disregard WB or Disney war propaganda cartoons and analysis thereof.  It’s the rational, intelligent way to approach these things.

    • In that case, I’ve got some questions.

      Are you arguing that Disney was right or wrong to delete the sequences described in this article? Further, are you saying that decision was dictated by the fact that “Bambi” was in production during the 1941 strike and subsequent unionization of the studio?

      Would it follow then, that Disney made only two features that would meet with your approval (Snow White and Pinocchio) because those two films were made before the strike?

      I like a good political discussion as much as the next fellow. However, beyond the abstract discussions about what arises from the creation of trade unions, to claim that modern Disney movies like “Frozen” are mediocre because of them to me is quite a stretch.

    • Wasn’t Dumbo in production during the animator’s strike?  I understood Bambi was the first compromised production after Disney recognized the Guild.  If not, it still doesn’t matter because the man had such a dominant personality his presence was going to be felt in spite of organized labor attempting to gradually dilute his artistic vision.  I can only speculate within reason why he caved to union pressure, and I think it is reasonable to assume that since he allegedly never got over it his motivation must have been rooted in the same irrational altruistic conditioning that perpetuates unions and their mediocre standards which give us movies like Frozen et al.  It might be the same reasoning that made him relent to dropping the sequence, and if it was “right” for him at the time and if Bambi is a lesser film because of it, that pales in comparison with what Disney could heap on the cutting room floor today.  I’d be more interested in what the Cartoon Research archivists and historians would speculate on that subject.

    • Yes, “Dumbo” was in production during the strike, and the scene where the clowns are in shadow getting drunk and singing “We’re gonna hit the big boss for a raise!” is a direct commentary on the whole debacle. Just curious to know if you carry your self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual, “libertarian” attitude towards unions to the products of Warner Bros, Lantz, MGM, Columbia, and UPA as well. They unionized too.

    • First you bash Chuck Jones and now this. What’s next? Bashing “Peach on Earth” and mention there’s some hidden message in it?

    • Very well, but I’m still not seeing the connection that you appear to be making between what Disney had to pay his staff thanks to the actions of the union and the decisions he and his writers made in terms of what to put in the films.

    • Aren’t conservatives fun? They all act like they just discovered sex and can’t wait to tell everyone all about it… 😀

    • I seriously was wondering if I was the only one getting sick of Öh’s political segues. (I take the above posts as a “no.”) While I do enjoy an engaging discussion, this site is “Cartoon Research,” not “Political Research.” While we are going to bump into the subject of politics here and there due to this site’s focus, Öh’s latest posts are getting to the point that they are barely tangentially related to the subject at hand.

  • Gee, I always do my best work when I’m not worrying about how I’m going to pay for my lunch. I’ll look at the robber barons in a whole new light from now on.

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